Morphological, social and perceptual dimensions of public places in British neighbourhoods

Alvarez, Laura B. (2018) Morphological, social and perceptual dimensions of public places in British neighbourhoods. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study sits within the socio-political and legislative context of a transition time worldwide, when globalisation, a communication revolution, mass migration, climate change and economic rebalancing are changing the face of the world. This work aimed to resolve some of the challenges urban practice is facing to adopt complex, systemic and multidisciplinary appraisal processes that could help deliver more sustainable neighbourhoods, looking at public life in the public realm in British neighbourhoods.

The study adopted the concept of neighbourhood coined by Barton (2000): the physical environment; the community; and human perceptions of their area. All encapsulated within six core dimensions of place proposed by Carmona (2010): ‘morphological’, ‘social’, ‘perceptual’, ‘visual’, ‘functional’ and ‘temporal’ dimensions. This research concerns the first three dimensions.

Traditionally, urban studies, design guidance and planning policy in Britain have been largely dominated by morphology literature. More recently, methods for appraising the quality of the public realm were developed. However, these approaches focus on the physical aspects of place neglecting other dimensions.

The core element of this research involved the adaptation of social sciences’ tools and their application to appraise two urban neighbourhoods in Nottingham, and two semi-rural towns in North East Derbyshire. The empirical study applied a variety of methods including quantitative analysis and phenomenological interpretation.

The adopted social tools were tested in professionally-led, community-led and authority-led engagement processes to inform planning policy. The correlated findings demonstrated that all three dimensions are strongly interconnected: road hierarchy, social spheres and enclave-belonging behaviours correlated; informal contact at a street level was strongly related to street patterns; public building provision was associated with the creation and development of social networks; and the value that neighbours gave to public places had correlation with certain urban characteristics of place but not with professional evaluations of urban quality.

This new knowledge made two main contributions to urban practice: methodological, with the introduction of feasible ways to appraise the social and perceptual dimensions of place in neighbourhoods; and empirical, with evidence based validation of existing synergies between three dimensions of place in neighbourhoods. It also contributed to urban literature and opened channels for further research.

This thesis demonstrated that studies that neglect social and perceptual dimensions, emphasising on morphology, might result in incomprehensive or incomplete interpretations of place. An assumption can be made on the basis of these empirical findings that other dimensions of place that escaped the scope of this research are equally important. Following this work, field practitioners and authorities are urged to note the relevance of multi-dimensional approaches to urbanism, an urgent reform that needs to be catalysed in urban policy and practice.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Borsi, Katharina
Taranto-Rodrigues, Lucelia
Keywords: public spaces, community, social space, nottingham, derbyshire, meadows, sneinton, dronfield, killamarsh, neighbourhoods, place
Subjects: H Social sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 49750
Depositing User: Alvarez, Laura
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2018 04:40
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2018 15:51

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